MORGANTOWN – The Morgantown/Kingwood Branch of the NAACP has called on Westover City Attorney Tim Stranko to resign in the wake of his referring to Delegate Danielle Walker as a “bitch” during a private meeting that was secretly recorded and posted to YouTube.
“Reprehensible,” said branch President Dr. Jerry Carr Jr., in a Tuesday release announcing the branch’s wishes. “I don’t know how the public could feel comfortable about this city leadership if they’re willing to look at people who think differently from them as less than human.”
Walker is the only Black female state legislator.
“In 2021,” Carr said, “we shouldn’t be the only organization calling for this person’s resignation. City Council should be calling for it; other community groups should be calling for it.”
Stranko and Westover Mayor Dave Johnson did not respond to requests for comment. The NAACP also did not return a call for follow-up questions.
Walker said Tuesday that she made her feelings known when she attended the Sept. 20 Westover Council meeting following the the Sept. 9 release of the recording. The recorded meeting took place Sept. 11, 2020.
“The apology that Mr. Stranko gave to me, I told him I didn’t need it, but the people of Westover did,” She said. “And I still stand by those words. And if he is not going to apologize to the residents, I think that he should consider resigning.”
She continued, “I don’t know what was the true reasoning of him calling me such a demeaning and degrading name.”
She will continue to attend Westover Council meetings as a part of the support system for the residents, she said. She represents Westover as part of the Monongalia County legislative delegation.
“The embarrassment Mr. Stranko has placed on the job title that he holds, I now understand a little bit more of the recordings that we’ve all heard from Westover. … Am I in agreement to his resignation? I’m not sure. Will a resignation assist in this type of behavior? Of course it will.”
Walker applauded Councilor Ralph Mullins’ statements made during council’s Oct. 4 meeting that he would resign if the rest of council and Johnson also resign and promise never to seek office again in the wake of documents he said he possesses showing charter violations and abuses of power by council and Johnson.
Walker said she’s not the only delegate who’s stood in the streets and undertaken activism. “I just think it is mighty odd, being one of the few people of color who attended Westover city meetings, that I would be the one deemed out of my name.” Stranko needs to revisit his role as city attorney in light of his comments. she said.
The Dominion Post previously reported that Stranko said he wishes he had never said that about Walker, but it came from anger, over her comments at a council meeting before the recorded meeting took place.
“She showed up at a council meeting with media and just said Westover is an unsafe place to drive through and essentially threw the whole police department under the bus as if they were committing these terrible acts on the citizens,” Stranko said . “When, in fact, these young men and women work really hard and do great service for the community. … I wish I was a better person, I wish I wouldn’t have said it. … But that’s the context.”
The secretly recorded 2020 meeting included Stranko, former Police Chief Richard Panico, interim Chief John Morgan and councilman Steve Andryzcik.
The discussions involved Panico’s resignation, alleged misconduct by Officer Aaron Dalton – who remains on paid administrative leave while a defendant in two federal civil rights lawsuits stemming from a January 2019 incident in which Andre Howton was pulled from his home and beaten – and Johnson’s alleged protection of Dalton that led Panico to comment there were two Westover Police Departments: Johnson’s and the city’s.
Stanko first mentioned Walker about 32 minutes into the meeting, when it was alleged that the apparent disarray was undermining civic confidence in the department. “ We’ve already got Danielle Walker and the rest of ’em screaming about, ‘It’s unsafe to be in Westover.’ What a terrible thing that is for the city.
Then, about an hour and 14 minutes into the recording, discussion turns to formalizing letter about complaints about Dalton.
Stranko said, “My goal is to always follow the law and to protect the city. And we protect the city by following the law.”
After comments from others, he said, “People need to trust the department. There couldn’t be anything more important. Pubic safety is serious business. That’s why this bitch, oh, sorry, [laughter in background] that’s why this delegate screaming about, ‘Westover’s not a safe place to be’ is so destructive, because we know that’s not the case.”
The recording was posted anonymously by someone going as “Alex Butterfield,” a possible reference to Alexander Butterfield, former President Richard Nixon’s assistant who revealed the existence of the White House’s recording system during the Watergate investigation.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the recording, which runs about an hour and 33 minutes, had 2,410 views.